Microsoft's Surface has always been a slightly baffling product: It's a real multi-touch large-screen PC with almost sci-fi levels of cleverness, but costs a whopping $10,000, so it's out of most people's reach. But clearly Microsoft loves the device, or at least its core concept, since a new Surface 2.0 will be out within two to three years.
So said Joe Olsen, CEO of Surface-programmer company Phenomblue at a SXSW panel called "Violating the Warranty on Your Touch Computing Device." He's apparently been told some details about the next gen version, the details of which sound exactly like what was shown during Microsoft TechFest 09. SecondLight—the name of the project shown during TechFest—has an extra projector inside. That's one more than the current technology has, and it means that as well as projecting information on the "main" display, the device will apparently be able to display information on a layer above that screen (this was demonstrated during Microsoft TechFest 09). Hold a piece of white paper over an image of a cow on the table, for example, and the paper will display a written encyclopedia entry about cows.
The machine has infrared detectors built in too, which means that as well as detecting multitouch gestural inputs when users prod the screen, it detects and reacts to "mid-air" gestural controls, without anyone needing to touch anything. There's also an expectation, pretty logically, that the PC will have uprated recognition cameras—the current unit uses five to detect and recognize objects placed on the screen.
Surface is primarily a vehicle for Microsoft to develop and perfect the technology for a narrow market—it's mostly used in retail and tourist-trade applications, though it was recently used to coordinate Super Bowl security—and with little risk, before unleashing more consumer touchscreen products, with the benefit of years of operational testing. Hopefully the cost of all those touchy-feely gadgets in "2019" will be a lot less than $10,000.
[via BBC News]